In February and March this year, I was using a certain app to find friends in the city I had just moved to. It was an interesting process because the “getting to know each other” stage (before us two strangers met in person) was quite lengthy. Most of the women I talked with for over a week before we decided to set up a “friend date” in person.
There were a ton of women who I talked with who just weren’t a good match, friendship-wise. And as we chatted, over time, those conversations just sort of fizzled out on their own, because we didn’t have that much in common, or we weren’t on the same page in life.
In my past experience with online dating (read: looking for a relationship) a few years ago, I found a lot of the men were interested in getting together ASAP. They were more concerned with meeting in person to establish a “connection” versus talking online for long periods of time. I can’t entirely blame them—it’s much more enjoyable to talk to a face than just read text messages. However, this really got me thinking about the nature of online dating, as well as the best process to do it to enable longevity in relationships, or at least to generate a real connection.
And so in March, the lockdown began. Meeting in person was no longer an option for online daters, or friend seekers, like me. This meant men and women were left to chat for long periods of time, from a distance and actually get to know each other, before establishing a physical connection.
According to a study by Purdue University researchers, “friendship, not sex, is the secret to a long-lasting romantic relationship.” And what I think the lockdown has done, (for those who actually stayed home and practiced social distancing) is transformed the dating process into the friendship process. Which ultimately will lead to either deeper, more connected relationships or a lot less broken hearts.
The friends that I made online before the lockdown happened—only having met them in person once—I’ve continued to connect with weekly over the past four months, at times, talking for hours on the phone. And I think there’s something to be said about that. A new study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships concluded that it takes spending 50 hours for adults to become casual friends, 90 hours to become real friends, and 200 hours to become close friends. And it’s not just the quantity of time spent in each other’s proximity that matters, but quality—otherwise, we’d all be best friends with our colleagues.
Translating this into the dating world, being physically close to someone doesn’t guarantee a friendship—which, according to the above Purdue study, is something we should be striving for when getting into a relationship. “After analyzing the results of the survey, it was found that students who scored high in friendship aspects scored highly on romantic commitment, love, and sexual satisfaction. More importantly, they were still together with their partner.”
Bumble, the popular women-first dating app, reported in a study that “46% [of the 5,000 users surveyed in the U.K.] said quarantine has shown them the benefit of spending more time chatting and getting to know someone first.”
While distance dating is less than ideal in many regards, I believe it will be beneficial for most in the long run. Those who have chosen to virtually date, or make friends, and have maintained those connections will be more likely to experience deeper, longer lasting connections with those people when social distancing restrictions are removed. Motivational speaker, Anthony Robbins says that, “The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships.” Putting in the time to get to know someone and establish meaningful connections, be it a friend or love-interest, will be beneficial to your life.
Photo: Pham, Lopez, Thought Catalog, Wangenheim, Montgomery, Ferreira; Unsplash.